- Stuart Symington
name = Stuart Symington
imagesize = 152 px
order = 1st
United States Secretary of the Air Force
September 18, 1947
April 24, 1950
Harry S. Truman
Thomas K. Finletter
jr/sr2 = United States Senator
January 3, 1953
December 27, 1976
June 26, 1901
December 14, 1988(age 87)
New Canaan, Connecticut
party = Democrat
spouse = Evelyn Wadsworth Symington
profession = Business Executive
William Stuart Symington (
June 26, 1901– December 14, 1988) was a businessman and political figurefrom Missouri. He served as the first Secretary of the Air Force (from 1947 until 1950) and was a Democratic United States Senatorfrom Missouri (from 1953 until 1976).
Education and Business Career
Symington was born in
Amherst, Massachusettsand grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from Yale Universityin 1923. At Yale he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilonfraternity and the Elihu senior society and served on the board of the " Yale Daily News". During World War I, Symington enlisted in the United States Armyand was commissioned a Second Lieutenantat age 17.
In 1923, Symington went to work for an uncle in the shops of the Symington Company of
Rochester, New York, manufacturers of malleable iron products. Two years later he formed Eastern Clay Products, Inc., but in 1927 returned to the Symington Company as executive assistant to the president.
Symington resigned in 1930 to become president of the Colonial Radio Corporation. In January 1935, he accepted the presidency of Rustless Iron and Steel Corporation (manufacturers of
stainless steel), but remained a director of Colonial Radio Corporation.
When Rustless Iron and Steel Corporation was sold to the American Rolling Mill Company in 1937, Symington resigned and in 1938, accepted the presidency of
Emerson Electric Companyin St. Louis, Missouri. During World War II he transformed the company into the world's largest builder of airplane gun turrets.
First Secretary of the Air Force
He resigned from Emerson in 1945 to join the administration of fellow Missourian
Harry S. Truman.
His first positions were chairman of the
Surplus Property Board(1945), administrator of the Property Administration(1945–1946) and Assistant Secretary of War for Air (1946–1947).
September 18, 1947, the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force was created and Symington became the first Secretary. Symington had a stormy term as he moved to give the United States Air Force(which previously had been part of the Army) respect. He had numerous public battles with United States Secretary of Defense James Forrestal. During his tenure there was a major debate and investigation into production of the Convair B-36Bomber, which was the last of the piston powered bombers at the beginning of the jet age. Symington and others were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. Major accomplishments included the Berlin Airliftand championing the United States Air Force Academy. Symington resigned in 1950 to protest lack of funding for the Air Force after the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb. He remained in the administration as chairman of National Security Resources Board(1950–1951) and Reconstruction Finance CorporationAdministrator (1951–1952).
U.S. Senator and candidate for President
At the urging of his father-in-law
James Wolcott Wadsworth, Jr., a former Republican (GOP) Speaker of the New York Assemblyand a GOP U.S. Senator from New York who had also been a rancherin Texasfrom 1911-1914, Symington ran in 1952 as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate from Missouri.
He was elected in 1952 (nationally, a year favorable for Republicans), and re-elected in 1958, 1964 and 1970 (all three heavily Democratic years), but did not seek a fifth term. He resigned on
December 27, 1976, four days before the end of his final term, so that his Republican successor, John C. Danforth, would gain a seniorityadvantage in the Senate.
Critic of McCarthy
Symington was an especially prominent opponent of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, to the vexation of the latter, who nicknamed him "Sanctimonious Stu." Symington took a lead role in condemning McCarthy during the
Army-McCarthy Hearings, capitalizing upon his prominence and expertise as a former Secretary of the Air Force.
The Annie Lee Moss case
March 9, 1954, Mrs. Annie Lee Mosswent before Sen. Joseph McCarthyand his committee under the accusation that she was a communist spy. Evidence supporting this claim was supposedly given by an undercover FBI agent who could not be cross-examined by Mrs. Moss or her counsel. As it became increasingly clear that a horrible mistake had been made, Sen. Symington proclaimed before the packed audience that he believed she was not a communist and had never been, receiving thunderous applause from those present. However, in September 1958, records of the Communist Party were released and proved Mrs. Moss was in fact a member of the Communist Party.
In 1950, Symington, then Chairman of the National Security Resources Board in Washington DC, was preparing to run in the next Presidential Elections. However, Symington failed in his attempt to seek nomination. Later, Symington ran in the 1960 presidential election and won the backing of former President
Harry S. Truman, but eventually lost the nomination to Senator John F. Kennedy. On July 2, 1960 Harry Truman announced that he would not be attending the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, California. Truman was miffed that the convention was being controlled by the "overzealous" supporters of Kennedy. Announcing his decision, Truman restated his support for the candidacy of Symington and added, "I have no second choice". [Truman Charges Kenny Backers Run Convention, Janson, Donald, New York Times, July 2, 1960] Symington, unlike Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson, refused to speak to segregated audiences in the Southern United States, and this hurt his chances. He was considered Kennedy's first choice for Vice President, but was dropped in favor of Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson in the politically tight race. He advised President Kennedy as a member of ExCommduring the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
During Symington's tenure in the Senate, he was known as an advocate for a strong national defense. He was also a strong supporter of the Air Force Academy and, in fact, helped establish it. Symington was also committed to constituent services, answering letters from Missouri citizens both important, trivial, and sometimes even zany. As an example, Symington once formally requested a report from military sources regarding the possible existence of subterranean superhumans, which one of his constituents had become concerned about after reading a fiction book and mistaking it for non-fiction. This and Symington's other Senatorial correspondence and papers were donated to the Western Historical Manuscripts Collection (on the University of Missouri campus) in 2002, and are now available to the general public.
In 1958, Symington accused the RAND Corporation of
defeatismfor studying how the United Statesmight strategically surrender to an enemy power. This led to the passage of a prohibition on the spending of tax dollars on the study of defeat or surrender of any kind. However, the senator had apparently misunderstood, as the report was a survey of past cases in which the US had demanded unconditional surrenderof "its" enemies, asking whether or not this had been a more favorable outcome to US interests than an earlier, negotiated surrender might have been. [cite book
author = Poundstone, W.
year = 1992
title = Prisoner's Dilemma
publisher = Doubleday]
In 1967 when
Major League Baseballowners approved the move of the Kansas City Athletics to Oakland, California, he threatened suits and legislation to revoke the league's antitrust exemption. Kansas City was awarded an expansion team the Kansas City Royalswhich was scheduled to begin play in 1971. Symington saying Kansas City should not wait that continued to threaten the league and the team began play in 1969.
James W. Symingtonserved in the U.S. House from Missouri's Second Congressional Districtfrom 1969 to 1977. His cousin Fife Symingtonwas Governor of Arizonafrom 1991 to 1997. His grandson, also named W. Stuart Symington, is employed by the U.S. State Departmentand is currently serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti. [ [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/71838.htm State Department biography] ] [ [http://thepolitic.org/content/view/40/39/ "Hope on the Horn of Africa," an interview with Stuart Symington] ]
He died in
New Canaan, Connecticut, and is buried in a crypt in Washington National Cathedral.
* [http://www.af.mil/bios/bio.asp?bioID=7011 Official USAF biography]
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